Crowdsourcing or “outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community” as the master of crowdsourcing Wikipedia defines it, is starting to become mainstream.  Perfect for opinions, surveys, ideas generation or product development it does, as with most things, have its pitfalls. It is also starting to threaten the traditional market and marketing research professions and rearrange the ways organisations are ‘doing things’ as social media blends into the traditional spaces of marketing, media and communications roles.

A great way to build brands and brand loyalty quickly, tap into talent, gain opinions & try out new ideas, all at little or no cost, crowd sourcing needs a health warning too. Mission-critical activities to crowd source? I’m no so sure…and the ethics of free work for nothing that takes away paid work from skilled people – not my ethics – I already hate free pitching for competitive tenders!

  • No written contracts, non-disclosure agreements, or employee agreements or agreeable terms with crowdsourced ‘employees’. Barter agreements are usual for wages, if any wages are discussed. Who is to say the rates are raised once you depend on the work?
  • Possible bias of results caused by targeted, malicious work efforts, or just plain bias because the crowd has time on its hands.
  • Difficulties maintaining a working relationship with crowdsourced workers throughout the duration of a project.
  • Increased likelihood that a crowdsourced project will fail due to lack of monetary motivation, too few participants, lower quality of work, lack of personal interest in the project, language barriers, or difficulty managing a large-scale, crowdsourced project.
  • Added costs to bring a project to an acceptable conclusion.

The freelance space is a good interim between a crowd and employee. Perhaps dip your toe in the water with this first!

I think I’ll consult LinkedIn – surely another great crowd source of advice! At least I know who I’m dealing with! Or do I?